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The most powerful woman in Europe — Merkel — to step down as CDU party leader

Lianna Brinded
Head of Yahoo Finance UK
Angela Merkel is standing down. Photo: Reuters

Angela Merkel, the most powerful woman in Europe, is standing down as the chairperson of her Christian Democratic Union party, a position she has held for 18 years, according to German media reports.

While she will remain Chancellor of Germany, media reports say she will not stand for the CDU leadership bid again and that she’ll put forward her candidacy at a CDU party conference in Hamburg on 7-8 December this year. She is set to make the announcement official at a press conference at 1pm local time today (29 October).

At the weekend, the CDU performed poorly in the elections in the central German state of Hesse. The dismal performance poured further scorn over Merkel’s authority as a leader of the CDU.

The CDU has ruled Hesse for the last 19 years and won the election at the weekend. However, the CDU’s share of the vote fell by more than 11 points, to 27% — marking the worst result for the party since 1962. Meanwhile, the right-wing, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) tripled its vote share from 2013 and allowing it to enter parliament for the first time with 13.2% of the vote.

The news has slightly dented EUR/USD:

Merkel news hits the euro. Chart: Yahoo Finance

Yahoo Finance UK’s Alanna Petroff spoke to Florian Hense, economist at Berenberg, who said: “We see a risk that someone could take over the party and she would not serve her whole term [as chancellor].”

Her term as Chancellor was expected to run until 2021. “She could also serve her full term. From what we know, this could still be a possibility,” added Hense. “We haven’t heard about serious contenders to replace her.”

CDU slides as AfD gains momentum on immigration

Merkel has been heralded as both a hero and villain for her open-door refugee policy in Germany.

While she may have gained the accolade of Time Person of the Year in 2015 for allowing over 1 million refugees into the country, not all voters have hailed this as a success.

In September last year, Merkel’s CDU party won the general election but more than 13% of the voting population chose the right-wing nationalists AfD, which are anti-Islam and anti-refugee. At the time,  AfD co-head Alexander Gauland said he would launch a parliamentary investigation into Merkel for her handling of the refugee crisis.

After the election, an Infratest Dimap poll found that almost all AfD supporters worry that German culture and way of life is under threat.